If you’re a high school senior it’s an exciting time of year. So many things are happening — high school is winding down, prom is right around the corner and graduation is just after that. And that’s not mentioning that college acceptance letters are starting to slide through the mail slot, marking the coming of a new chapter in your life. But it might be better to postpone that coming chapter by writing in a new one with a gap year.
What Is a “Gap Year”?
A gap year is when a student defers enrollment for a structured period of time to take a break from formal education in order to increase self-awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers, according to the American Gap Association (AGA).
Although more popular in Europe, gap years have become a growing trend in the U.S. About 40,000 students participated in gap year programs in 2013, an increase of almost 20 percent, the AGA reports. The AGA also found that gap year students have a higher GPA and are more involved on college campuses.
3 Reasons You Should Take a Gap Year
1. You’re due for some R&R.
After twelve years of grade school, a break may be in order. Think about it. Junior and senior year were arduous and exhausting. And now in college you will have a whole new workload coming in, a much more demanding one. Taking a year off to catch your breath and recharge your battery might be just what you need to avoid a burnout and make you a better, more focused student in college.
2. It’s time for an adventure.
Let’s face it: When’s the next time you’re going to be 18, have no job, no kids, no mortgage, no responsibilities — no worries? Never. So, while you have the chance, why not go for an adventure? Travel across the U.S. or go abroad to Europe or wherever you can think of for a year. Get some life experience under your belt. Get involved in your community or volunteer in a developing country.
3. Gather some cash.
College is expensive. With tuition, housing, books, snacks, and leisure money, college is a significant financial endeavor. And it’s no secret that student loans add up over time, so why not take a year to work a part-time job and save up some cash for college expenses? The fewer loans you take and the more pocket money you have while you’re in college the better.
Speaking of Money...
Some universities and colleges offer gap year programs which provide financial aid to students who intend to take a year off. Tufts University recently announced a Gap Year program that will pay students up to $30,000 for housing, airfare, and visa fees. Princeton University and the University of North Carolina also offer similar programs.
If you intend to take a gap year or are considering it, make sure to inquire if your school offers the option. Start with a list like this and by looking at organizations like Global Year Citizen, a non-profit which offers organized gap year programs that places its fellows in developing countries for volunteer work.
American Gap Association (2014, Jan. 01). Gap Year benefits. Retrieved from the American Gap Association.
Ducey, C., Fitzsimmons, W., McGrath, M. (2000, Dec. 06). Time out or burn out for the next generation. Retrieved from Harvard University.
O’Shea, J. (2014, Jan. 16). More students should take gap years before going to college. Retrieved from Inside Higher Ed.
Strutner, S. (2013, Nov. 30). Ten reasons you should take a Gap Year. Retrieved from The Huffington Post.
The Associated Press (2014, March 14). Colleges offer to pay students to take a Gap Year. Retrieved from NBC News.